Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
The power and logic of nature.
In yesterday’s post Autumn ramblings, I mentioned:
There’s been a couple of posts that I want to refer to because they underline the fact that humans are so prone to forgetting that we are of the wild, from the wild and connected to the wild.
REALITY IS WILD & FEROCIOUS. IGNORING IT IS INHUMAN.
And Presents A Civilizational Risk.
Princeton is freaking out. Flesh devouring aliens are lurking out in the woods, threatening academia’s fragile thoughts. Krugman:
‘From the Princeton Town Topics, which used to be all about (a) parking (b) deer:
A growing population of coyotes in the wooded area bordering the Institute for Advanced Study has motivated the Princeton Animal Control Advisory Committee to recommend that sharpshooters be hired to help handle the problem. “There is a big pack over at the Institute Woods,” officer Johnson said this week. “I’m having a lot of complaints that they follow people around.”‘
The “Mountain Lion”, is a relative of the Cheetah (erroneously put in the cat family, felis, until last year or so). It has 40 names, in English alone, and is found from the American Arctic to Patagonia, from the sea shore to the high mountains. The weight above is that of the female. Males are heavier (typically up to 100 kilograms). The heaviest puma shot in Arizona was 300 pounds (136 kilos).
The lion/cougar/puma is capable of jumping up twenty feet from a standstill (yes, 6 meters; horizontally, 14 meters). It is capable of killing a grizzly (pumas and ‘golden bears’ were famous for their naturally occurring furious fights to death in California). The feline’s crafty method consisted into jumping on top of the bear, and blinding him with furious pawing. Top speed: 50 mph, 80 km/h. (By the way, there used to be pure cheetahs in North America, recently exterminated by man. I propose to re-install the Asian cheetah in the USA, in a sort of cheetah diplomacy with Iran.)
The philosophical question here is: what is this world all about? Is it about living on our knees, or ruling among animals and wilderness?
Why would Princeton panic about small canids? Because they don’t obey the established order?
Coyotes are totally clever, and not at all dangerous (being so clever). They have very varied voices, when in packs. Going out and shooting them is really primitive, and misses the main point of having nature around. That is: to teach humility, and teach the richness of our planet, visit hearts with emotional diversity, and minds with complexity.
Bears and Mountain Lions are a completely different matter. They are both extremely clever too, but can be very dangerous.
Running and hiking in the Sierra, I got charged by scary bears several times. I view this dangerosity as a plus, but it never loses my mind, and I got scared nearly out my wits more than once.
Once, in a national Park on the coast, I literally ran into two large lions in 30 minutes! Then I got charged by a large elk before he realized I was not a lion. Other high notes were finding a bear cub on the trail in the near vertical mountain side, on the way down, as dusk was coming.
Another high point was the large bear by the trail, who was lying like a bear rug, at 9pm, in an apparent ruse to let me approach until he could jump at his prey, as he did, before realizing that I was not a deer, something that obviously infuriated him. He was torn between making the human into dinner, and the instinct that this would turn badly for him.
In Alaska I was charged by a moose with her progeny… although I did not go as fast as an experienced mountain biker who happened to be there too, the anti-grizzly cannister in my hand emboldened me to succeed in a circuitous move to proceed towards my distant destination, something facilitated by the calf’s crash into some obstacle, drawing his mother’s concern. Mountain running often requires to proceed, no matter the obstacles in the way, when one is too far to turn around.
Bears know rocks, they have been hurt by them, and so they fear airborn rocks (throw the rock on something noisy, to impress; I had to hit, with a very large rock, a charging bear directly, once; it fled; it was killed by rangers later after he caused a flesh wound to somebody else; some will find all this very violent; well, it is, that’s part of the whole point).
Mountain Lions are better charged and/or, roared or barked at. They fear insane behavior.
In general making lots of noise helps, with bears and lions. I don’t have clever tricks to suggest for bathing safely in the murky icy Pacific. Although I assume that the presence of sea lions bobbing on the surface placidly is indicative of the absence of an obvious white shark prowling… In any case the pacific is so cold, you will probably die of cardiac arrest before you are devoured.
In Africa, there are about 500,000 elephants. 25,000 to 30,000 are killed, a year, to send the ivory to east Asia (China, Vietnam). So African elephants may disappear. This is beyond tragic, it’s irreplaceable. Elephants understand people’s gestures, without any learning (they apparently learn to use trunk gestures among themselves). One is talking about extremely intelligent animals here. (In contrast, chimpanzees have great difficulties understanding human gestures.)
Intelligence and culture are dominant among apex mammals. That’s what makes them so superior. Washington State had the smart idea to shoot full grown adult male mountain lions. Thus mountain lion society and culture collapsed, uneducated teenagers took over, and incidents with humans exploded (something about the quiet macho society!).
A Japanese specialist of chimpanzee intelligence who happens to have a bear in his lab, found that the bear did not underperform chimpanzees on mental tasks (that’s actually a problem with bears; being so clever, they can be unpredictable, one can never know what they have up their sleeve, like the one who mimicked a bear rug, above, or one who drove a car in Tahoe). A number of social mentally advanced animals (sea mammals, parrots) use advanced languages.
So what are my recommendations? The Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies ought to realize that, if it wants to become really brainy, it ought to give our fellow species a chance. They are part of what make our minds, in full.
Elephants and rhinoceroses used to be all over Europe and North America. They ought to be re-introduced right away, using Indian and African species (rare camels too; later, thanks to genetic engineering, part of those could be replaced by re-engineered ancient species, such as the Mammoth). Lions and leopard like species ought to be reintroduced too.
It can work: in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is an impressive population of mountain lions. I had many close calls (in the most recent incident, a few weeks ago, a lion peed an enormous and dreadfully smelling amount on a trail I was making a loop on, obviously to show me he owned the territory, a total wilderness reserve a few miles from Silicon Valley… especially at dusk).
However, the lions are extremely good at avoiding people (although one got killed by police in downtown Berkeley in the wee hours of the morning). They will all be collared in the next ten years, to find out what is going on. With modern technology (collars!) and sophisticated human-animal culture, there is no reason why extremely dangerous, but clever species could not live in reasonable intelligence with humans.
So rewilding is possible. It’s also necessary. Why? So we humans can recover our hearts, and our minds.
Whether we like it or not, we are made for this wild planet. By forgetting how wild it is, by shooting it into submission, we lose track of the fact human life, and civilization itself, are much more fragile than they look.
And thus, by turning our back to the wilds, we lose track of what reality really is. Worse: we never discover all what our minds can be, and how thrilling the universe is. We are actually bad students who refuse to attend the most important school, that taught by reality itself.
Rewilding is necessary, not just to instill a mood conducive to saving the planet, but also to remake us in all we are supposed to be.
These are the times when, once again, the plutocratic phenomenon is trying to take over. That’s when the few use the methods of Pluto to terrorize and subjugate the many (to constitute what is variously named an elite, oligarchy, or “nomenklatura“, or aristocracy, that is, a plutocracy).
And how is that possible? because the many have been made into a blind, stupid, meek herd (I refer to Nietzsche for the condemnation of the herd mentality).
How do we prevent that? Nietzsche advocated the mentality of the “blonde beast“. That meant the lion (and not what the Nazis claimed it was; few were as anti-Nazi as Nietzsche). Why lion? Because lions are domineering. I learned in Africa that one could go a long way with wild lions, as long as one gave them respect, and time to get out of the way. However, disrespecting a lion means death.
Lions don’t accept to live on their knees. When abominable forces from the giant Persian theocratic plutocracy put the tiny Athenian democracy in desperate military situations, Athenians fought like lions. And democracy won.
Yet, 150 years later, when fascist, plutocratic, but apparently not as abominable, Macedonian forces put Athens in a difficult situation, Athenians surrendered. They did not fight like lions. Democracy would not come back to Athens for 23 centuries (and only thanks to the European Union).
We will not defeat plutocracy if we do not rewild ourselves. First. Let there be lions.
What I read in Patrice’s essay is this. Man is, by definition, part of nature. Yet man, uniquely of all the natural species on this planet, has contrived to ‘evolve’ a set of beliefs that run counter to the core integrity of nature. Perhaps more accurately put: sections of modern man have evolved this way.
I have a background piece on Learning from Dogs called Dogs and integrity. Here’s an extract:
- are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
- don’t cheat or lie
- don’t have hidden agendas
- are loyal and faithful
- love unconditionally
- value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
- are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.
And have poetry written for them:
If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
You are probably the family dog!
Those words apply equally to all the animals on this planet; all of Nature’s animals. In other words, integrity must be and has to be the one and only framework within which we live.
I occasionally read sad stories in my local media of senseless cruelty against wildlife around my town of Colchester: the smashing of barn owl eggs; people suffocated badgers by closing their den up. People have no opportunity to expose themselves to nature, and thus connect with nature, some experts call “Nature Deficit Disorder.”
Technology, far from liberating, enslaves the individual to a relentless need for entertainment and personal validation, backed by demands of television, homework, cellphones and money earning. Many view nature as a health and safety risk, so that it is either managed or avoided. The situation is best illustrated in a satirical YouTube video called“The discovery of the last child in the woods.”
The solution is simple: expose yourself to nature.
The indigenous Native American expresses a connection to nature in this video:
Here is that video. Watch it without interruption. In less that 3 minutes it spells out everything that we humans have to relearn about the world we live in; the world we are part of. The integrous world we must fight for. Fight for as lions!
When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
~ Cree Prophecy ~
Can we mend our broken ways? Just possibly.
Yesterday’s long rant was the outcome of me promising ‘a debate’ with Patrice Ayme. Succinctly, I had disagreed with a comment from Patrice where he had written: “Force is the truth of man. Everything else is delusion, even the vegetarian style.” and wanted to respond within the space of a post rather than the more restrictive comment.
For my disagreement with Patrice had been essentially about his statement, ‘Force is the truth of man‘. I don’t recall a war in the last 50 years that has been a force for good.
But then it was Alex’s comment, see below, that stopped me short. For I realised that I was confusing ‘force’ with ‘war’ and that was probably a big mistake on my behalf. Of course, I’m writing this without the benefit of knowing better what Patrice meant in his comment! Blogging, as powerful a media as it is, does not provide for immediate interaction!
Nevertheless, Alex’s comment yesterday was powerfully inspirational. Because so many of us (and I include me in that ‘us’) all too often behave as though we are a species utterly divorced from Nature.
I closed yesterday’s post with these words;
So what to do? Because I am fundamentally at odds with the sentiment expressed by Patrice Ayme; “Force is the truth of man. Everything else is delusion, even the vegetarian style.“
The answer takes us to tomorrow’s post, A return to integrity.
And, yes, it does mention dogs! Rather a lot as it happens!
Dogs are the one species that man has lived with longer than any other species. So when we refer to the qualities of the dog it is simply because we are so familiar with them. In no way does that exclude the numerous other species that bond with man and share the same wonderful qualities.
Qualities so easily seen: Love, Honesty, Loyalty, Trust, Openness, Faithfulness, Forgiveness and Affection. Together they are Integrity.
Of course dogs will kill a rabbit, for example, as readily as a cat will kill a mouse. In this respect force is the truth of Nature.
The only way for species man to survive on this planet is for every element of man’s existence on this planet to be rethought of in terms of the natural order. Read the comment left by Alex in yesterday’s post:
Hi Paul, what you highlight are examples of disconnection between humanity with nature and each other. I have on my own blog highlighted a concept of Ubuntu – “I am because we are” – which is only possible when the self realises they are part of an inter-connected network of life. Your example of islands of fragmented forest where disconnected wildlife are dying out is how it is with disconnected humanity, we are doomed to destruction because we are cut off from the life-giving connection to nature.
All the problems you highlight are symptoms of the disease of disconnection, until there is reconnection to nature none of these symptoms can be successfully addressed.
War is an integral part of nature, when people seek to dismiss this then they add to the disconnection from nature. I was stung in the face by a drunken wasp a few days ago, this is how it is with nature, it is beautiful but also brutal. Peace and balance are illusions, life is in a becoming because of unbalance and strife. I advocate harmony, like a downhill skier we do not seek to control our surroundings, but instead act in harmony by moving around the obstacles such as rock and tree.
Disconnection can be as large as destroying whole forests by ignorant energy policies to those idiots who kicked a puffball to pieces before I could harvest it, or the new owners of my former home who have taken a chainsaw to all the trees and bushes in the garden. People who are disconnected do not consider how their actions impact nature or people contrary to the philosophy of Ubuntu.
“I am because we are!” Each and every one of us is where we are today, for good or ill, because of what we are: part of Nature. It’s so incredibly obvious – we are a natural species – yet who reading this wouldn’t admit at times to behaving “as though we are a species utterly divorced from Nature.”
Millions of us have pets and animals that we love. Yet we still miss the key truth of our pets. That we are a part of Nature, subject to Natural order, just as much as our pets are. We have so much to learn from our animals.
Take this rather sad story but, nonetheless, a formidable story of the integrity of one species for another. Watch the video.
Take this rather happier story about the integrity of one species for another. Watch the video.
Thus when we see the extraordinary benefits that arise from love and trust, from loyalty and faithfulness, and much more, why oh why is so much of our society fundamentally broken?
As John Hurlburt wrote in a recent email, it is because, “we are spiritual bankrupt. We spend too much of our time thinking about ourselves and what we want and too little of our time thinking about other people and what we all need.” John went on to add that this spiritual bankruptcy had preceded our moral and economical bankruptcy. He pointed out that the solution to our moral and financial problems, as well as our salvation as individuals and as a species, is spiritual. “We simply need to love the Nature of God, the earth and each other regardless of what we may believe God to be.”
Now whether you are a religious soul, or a heathen, or somewhere in the middle, it matters not. For if we continue to defy Nature and the natural laws of this planet we are going to be dust before the end of this century. Again in John’s powerful words:
Denying climate change is a death wish.
Nature always wins in the long run.
Nature is balanced. Are we?
As if to endorse the great examples that Nature offers us in terms of the benefits of love and trust, take a look at these three recent photographs from here in Oregon.
Now these are not photographs to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over, these are reminders that kindness, generosity, selflessness and trust are part of Nature. All the great virtues and values of man do not come from a vacuum, they come to us via Nature.
We have been blessed by an evolution that has allowed mankind to achieve remarkable things. Even to the point of leaving the confines of our planet and setting foot on the Moon and sending probes from out of our Solar System. There’s a sense, a distinctly tangible sense, that man has conquered all; that we have broken the link from being part of Nature; from being of Nature.
And now Mother Earth is reminding all of her species, every single one of them including species man, that everything is bound by her Natural Laws.
Does this mean that man has to revert to some form of pre-civilised stone-age era? Of course not! Progress can be as much within the Natural order than in competition with it, as it has been in recent times. In fact, Professor Pat Shipman explains our progress is benefited by being part of that Natural order. Here’s how Amazon describe her book, The Animal Connection.
The Animal Connection: A New Perspective on What Makes Us Human
A bold, illuminating new take on the love of animals that drove human evolution.
Why do humans all over the world take in and nurture other animals? This behavior might seem maladaptive—after all, every mouthful given to another species is one that you cannot eat—but in this heartening new study, acclaimed anthropologist Pat Shipman reveals that our propensity to domesticate and care for other animals is in fact among our species’ greatest strengths. For the last 2.6 million years, Shipman explains, humans who coexisted with animals enjoyed definite adaptive and cultural advantages. To illustrate this point, Shipman gives us a tour of the milestones in human civilization-from agriculture to art and even language—and describes how we reached each stage through our unique relationship with other animals. The Animal Connection reaffirms our love of animals as something both innate and distinctly human, revealing that the process of domestication not only changed animals but had a resounding impact on us as well.
It’s a powerful read and greatly recommended. Here’s an extract from the book [page 274, my emphasis]:
Clearly, part of the basis of our intimacy with tame or domesticated animals involves physical contact. People who work with animals touch them. It doesn’t matter if you are a horse breeder, a farmer raising pigs, a pet owner, a zoo keeper, or a veterinarian, we touch them, stroke them, hug them. Many of us kiss our animals and many allow them to sleep with us. We touch animals because this is a crucial aspect of the nonverbal communication that we have evolved over millennia. We touch animals because it raises our oxytocin levels – and the animal’s oxytocin levels. We touch animals because we and they enjoy it.
From the first stone tool to the origin of language and the most recent living tools, our involvement with animals has directed our course.
So to round this off. These last two posts came from my need to debate with Patrice the statement that “Force is the truth of man.” If Patrice’s meaning was that the truth of man is subject to the force of Nature, then I agree one-hundred percent.
For the time for man to recognise that the force of Nature is “the truth of man” is running out.
Each of us, whoever you are, for the sake of your children and for all of the children in the world, embrace today the qualities, the values of Nature.
Love, Honesty, Loyalty, Trust, Openness, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Affection.
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, colour, religion or politics,
Then, my friend, you are almost as good as your dog.
Let us learn from dogs.
Let us return to integrity.
A guest post from Sue Dreamwalker.
Last Monday, the post on Learning from Dogs was called Growing old!!
The essence of that post was to report on the following:
That’s why a recent item on the BBC News website jumped off the page at me. It was an article called: Health kick ‘reverses cell ageing’ written by Michelle Roberts, Health editor, BBC News online. Here is how the article opened:
Going on a health kick reverses ageing at the cellular level, researchers say.
The University of California team says it has found the first evidence a strict regime of exercise, diet and meditation can have such an effect.
But experts say although the study in Lancet Oncology is intriguing, it is too early to draw any firm conclusions.
The study looked at just 35 men with prostate cancer. Those who changed their lifestyle had demonstrably younger cells in genetic terms.
The full article should be read, by the way, because it covers much more than this opening paragraph.
Anyway, one of the comments to that post was left by Sue, of Sue Dreamwalker, Here is what she wrote:
Great information and learning to Meditate even for a few minutes helps heal and relax.. Dogs have it right…. No stress!
I wrote a complete exercise I used a lot both for myself and within my circle I used to run… Hope you enjoy as you take your roots down into the earth after bringing in the Light….
you can find it here http://wp.me/p16xW7-37
I then asked Sue if I could republish her guidance on meditation as a guest post. Sue kindly agreed. Here it is.
A Meditation For My Friends
by Sue Dreamwalker
Some Friends have been asking about Meditation and relaxation techniques, so I have put you a very simple little meditation here for starters.
You can buy books on meditation and read different techniques until your eyes pop out of your head, and you can find plenty about meditation on web sites too. I always say there is no right or wrong way to Meditate. To meditate means finding that quiet place within your own mind, finding that peace and space to be at one with yourself.
When people say empty your mind, this is near enough impossible, as you will always have a train of thought that will pop in at times. So this is why we use the Breath.
The breath is used to bring your concentration back, so focusing on your breath may be one way in which you can stop the hum-drum of your thoughts that chatter away inside your head.
First you need to ensure you’re not going to be disturbed, so switch of the phone, find a comfortable chair, in a quiet room, and relax. If you lie down you may find that you drift asleep, that’s ok also for that shows you have relaxed. But preferably sit upright with your feet slightly apart and have them touching the ground. Take deep breaths breathing in and out through the nose, and close your eyes.
This is one of the meditations I do regularly. It may seem long to read, but once you have it in your mind it will only take you 10 minutes to do. Read it through a couple of times until you have it clear in your mind, and then have a go.
Relax and take some nice deep breaths breathing deeply and evenly, try to breath in to the count of five, hold for a few seconds and then breath out long and slow, Feel your breath rise from your solar plexus your stomach and feel your diaphragm rise and fall.
Do this for a few minutes until you feel comfortable with breathing this way. (Many of us do not breathe deep enough, so this may at first feel uncomfortable, but try not to force it, just try to get your breath into a natural rhythm).
One your breath is comfortable I want you to imagine a beautiful White light coming down in a column from up above your head. Almost like a search light in a darkened room.
As you breath in, I want you to breathe in this light. Imagine that it is flowing down inside your head through your crown, and it passes behind your eyes, relaxing your eyes. It then passes down over your throat, relaxing your throat.
You feel this Light which has healing properties cascading across your shoulders, relaxing your shoulders, taking all the burdens of the day with it. You now see and feel this warm Light travel down your arms into your forearms relaxing your muscles as it goes, now it’s travelling into your finger tips, and your arms now feel heavy and relaxed.
You see the Light now travel through from your throat, down into your heart centre, feel the beat of your heart, and see the light now filling your heart and as it beats see the light dispersing throughout your veins into your whole being,
See the light travelling into your stomach relaxing your stomach muscles, down your thighs relaxing your thighs into your calves, relaxing your calves, and see the light now going into your feet relaxing your toes and feet.
And all the while you are breathing deeply and evenly, relaxing more and more.
Now you are relaxed and are full of healing light, I want you to now see that light coming out of the soles of your feet, as if they were roots from a tree. See these roots going down from your feet into Mother Earth, going down through the rocks, twisting and turning as they go deeper and deeper, and as they travel deeper so too you are feeling more and more relaxed.
You now see an underground cavern, with an underground pool, your roots of light emerge in the ceiling of this cavern, and illuminate it like the lights of a chandelier.
And as the light illuminates the Cavern you now see you are stood in a beautiful Crystal Cavern, The Light reflects the many luminous rainbow colours from the hundreds of giant crystals.. See the rainbow of pastel colours dance around the cavern reflection on the underground pool.
Now you can choose any colour you see, for whatever colour you choose this colour will intuitively be the right healing colour for your needs at this moment in time.
So once you see the colour you are attracted to, allow your roots to wrap themselves around that crystal, and as you breathe deeply in, see now that your roots have now turned into hollow straws, for you will now be able to breathe up that colour through your roots and as you do so, retract your roots back up through Mother Earth, breathe that colour into your feet, feel the warmth of the healing.
Now draw it back up through your calves, up through your thighs, into your solar plexus. Breathing deeply and evenly. Feel the warmth of healing relax and heal all your worries and anxieties, breath it up into your lungs, into your heart, down your arms and into your fingers, see how relaxed and refreshed you now feel, see this colour cleansing your entire being taking with it all the debris that you have collected, all the negative thoughts, flushing you clean.
See this colour now rise and come up through your throat, see it helping you release all the words you have spoken in haste, and all the words you hold back, see them all now flow up past your eyes, helping you see that you are a Being of Light and whole and free, see that colour now rise out through the top of your head, see it cascading out into the Universe Like a fountain, and as it does so see it explode into a thousand stars, taking all your problems and negative debris with it, and know that God and the Universe will disperse this energy as it sees fit,
Give thanks to Mother Earth for her healing energy, and see the top of your head close and seal in your new vibration, and feel yourself glowing from within,
Slowly bring your awareness back to yourself sat in the chair, and open your eyes.
Sit for a moment or two and take a sip of water.
Know that you can go to your crystal cavern at any time for healing.
Hope you relax and Enjoy.
x Dreamwalker x
And if you want any encouragement to find that deep, peaceful place, then just breath in this picture of young Cleo letting the world go by!
This is beginning to look like a theme!
Regular followers will be aware that both Monday’s post, The growth of empathy, and Tuesday’s post, Questions without answers, had a common theme. That of “the rising consciousness of all the millions of ordinary people just trying to leave the world in a better place”, as I wrote on Monday, in contrast, even stark contrast, with the blindness, for want of a stronger term, of those charged with governing our societies.
Around 12:45 on Monday I received a note that there was another follower of Learning from Dogs. Here is that note:
dcardiff just started following you at http://learningfromdogs.com. They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.
You might want to go see what they’re up to! Perhaps you will like their blog as much as they liked yours!
Like many other bloggers I try and go to whatever blog site that follower has and leave a ‘thank you’ message.
So off I went to Gotta Find a Home. The blogsite is by Dennis Cardiff and the sub-title of the blog is The plight of the homeless.
Here’s how Dennis introduces his blog:
Throughout the past few years I have come to know many people, now friends, who for various reasons are, or were, homeless. Antonio, slept on a park bench and was beaten, had his teeth kicked out, for no other reason than his choice to sleep outdoors. He is a small, gentle man who has a phobia about enclosed spaces.
Craig, slept on the sidewalk in the freezing cold. I see him every morning and am never sure if, when I lift the corner of his sleeping bag, I will find him dead or alive. Sometimes, he confided, he would prefer never to awake.
Joy is a friend who fell on hard times. She slept behind a dumpster in back of Starbucks. I have seen her with blackened eyes, bruised legs, cracked ribs, cut and swollen lips. I usually see her sitting on the sidewalk ‘panning’ for change.
I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen. I have started to write an account of their daily lives. I intend to turn this into a book and have it published. That is my goal.
I am writing articles and biographies of Joy and other street people. They have been informed that they don’t have to use their real names, that any profits would go back to the homeless and that it could be a vehicle to say whatever they want to the population at large.
Not only does that stir one’s heart and conscience but more so the fact that there are 6,069 followers of Dennis’s blog.
My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward Place Bell where I work, in the city’s gray, concrete, office tower canyon. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against the wall of the library. A snow-covered Buddha wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought,There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.
In the past I’ve been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.
I’ve been told not to give money to pan handlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, “The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?”
That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?”
“That would be nice,” she replied.
When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed.
This has become a morning routine for the past two and a half years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.
Reflect on how when you see a homeless person with so little, how so often they have a dog.
This is how a real man treats his best friend
A friend of mine posted this photo on their Facebook wall. Like most people when they first see it, I was overwhelmed with several emotions.
First of all, I felt a swell of compassion for these two. I don’t even know them, but I was immediately concerned with their wellbeing. I wanted them to be warm and fed, and protected.
Secondly, I was touched with the apparent love and friendship shared by the two, even though they are not even of the same species. I thought, “They may have nothing, but they have each other, so they have everything.” I don’t know by what circumstance this man and this dog came to be together, living on the streets, but I think it is a reflection of the callousness of our society.
Whatever the reason they are homeless, they are an opportunity for us, those who have the necessities of life in abundance, to show kindness and compassion. Remember this the next time you drive by a similar scene in your warm car. Remember that if you were in their shoes, you would want, or even if you would be too ashamed to ‘want,’ you would ‘need’ someone to help you.
Our apathy is what makes us truly destitute.
Yet another example of the power of this new world of interconnectedness and how, ultimately, those connections between all those millions who care will bring about a new caring era!
Or might that be in the name of insanity?
John Hurlburt is a frequent contributor to Learning from Dogs, as a quick search through the blog will reveal.
A few days ago, John sent Jean and me a film to watch. It was the documentary Surviving Progress. We watched it on Monday evening. Here’s more on the film and related information.
Here’s the trailer.
Published on Apr 6, 2012
Surviving Progress Trailer (Documentary 2012).
Directed by Mathieu Roy, Surviving Progress documentary film is based on the best selling book A Short History of Progress. From Executive Producer Martin Scorsese, this provocative documentary explores the concept of progress in our modern world, guiding us through a sweeping but detailed survey of the major “progress traps” facing our civilization in the arenas of technology, economics, consumption, and the environment….
“Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.”
Surviving Progress presents the story of human advancement as awe-inspiring and double-edged. It reveals the grave risk of running the 21st century’s software — our know-how — on the ancient hardware of our primate brain which hasn’t been upgraded in 50,000 years. With rich imagery and immersive soundtrack, filmmakers Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks launch us on a journey to contemplate our evolution from cave-dwellers to space explorers.
Ronald Wright, whose best-seller, “A Short History Of Progress” inspired this film, reveals how civilizations are repeatedly destroyed by “progress traps” — alluring technologies serve immediate needs, but ransom the future. With intersecting stories from a Chinese car-driving club, a Wall Street insider who exposes an out-of-control, environmentally rapacious financial elite, and eco-cops defending a scorched Amazon, the film lays stark evidence before us. In the past, we could use up a region’s resources and move on. But if today’s global civilization collapses from over-consumption, that’s it. We have no back-up planet.
Surviving Progress brings us thinkers who have probed our primate past, our brains, and our societies. Some amplify Wright’s urgent warning, while others have faith that the very progress which has put us in jeopardy is also the key to our salvation. Cosmologist Stephen Hawking looks to homes on other planets. Biologist Craig Venter, whose team decoded the human genome, designs synthetic organisms he hopes will create artificial food and fuel for all.
Distinguished Professor of Environment Vaclav Smil counters that five billion “have-nots” aspire to our affluent lifestyle and, without limits on the energy and resource-consumption of the “haves”, we face certain catastrophe. Others — including primatologist Jane Goodall, author Margaret Atwood, and activists from the Congo, Canada, and USA — place their hope in our ingenuity and moral evolution.
Surviving Progress leaves us with a challenge: To prove that making apes smarter was not an evolutionary dead-end.
Surviving Progress is a 2011 Canadian documentary film loosely based on A Short History of Progress, a book and a 2004 Massey Lecture series by Ronald Wright about societal collapse. The film was produced by Daniel Louis, Denise Robert, and Gerry Flahive and written/directed by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks.
So now to reactions to the film.
To say that it was compelling watching is both correct and, yet, emotionally disconnected.
The blunt truth is that the film is scary beyond belief. Like watching a giant wave about to engulf you, or a snake about to strike; nothing to do but be transfixed; to be mesmerized by these last few moments of your life.
Because a reasonable conclusion to the weight of evidence put forward by the film is that the time left to pull back from the certainty of the end of life on Planet Earth is minuscule. By that I mean we are speaking of a decade, perhaps two at most. Ninety-nine percent of the people reading this, living in your neighborhood, or your region, or your country will suffer the terrible consequences of the impending end of this planet as a home for life.
Unless there is most incredible awakening of global consciousness in the next two or three years. Unless the free world, from the highest in those lands to the vast masses of decent, working people, say, “Enough is enough.”
Unless every level of society, from local and national Governments, from Universities, from Churches, from employers both large and small, recognize that this time it’s different. This is about to become a global crisis.
I taken the following from the Amazon page for Ronald Wright’s book A Short History of Progress, that inspired the film:
From Neanderthal man to the Sumerians to the Roman Empire, A Short History of Progress dissects the cyclical nature of humanity’s development and demise, the 10,000-year old experiment that we’ve unleashed but have yet to control. It is Wright’s contention that only by understanding and ultimately breaking from the patterns of progress and disaster that humanity has repeated around the world since the Stone Age can we avoid the onset of a new Dark Age.
“the 10,000-year old experiment that we’ve unleashed but have yet to control.“
So let’s seek some solace. Back to John Hurlburt who in a post in July, Maybe home is found in our quietness, offered this:
Our world is increasingly spiritually, morally, mentally, physically and economically bankrupt. Many people would like to change the world one way or another. Most don’t really know why. Some folks simply don’t care. The idea is to leave life a bit better than we found it when we were born.
The fact is we’re all intrinsically sacred in a universe we didn’t create. We tend to prioritize illusion and delusion above reality. Playing God is a precursor of evil. A supreme faith in Money is self contradictory and ultimately fatal. Arrogance compounds the problem.
We connect in unified awareness through serene meditation. We experience harmony within an emerging celestial symphony. Answers flow from the inside out as we surrender to the eternal energy flow.
Be still and know…
an old lamplighter
I was going to close with a quotation from that most famous of Brits, Winston Churchill. The one that goes: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
But after I had put the post ‘to bed’, so to speak, I started to read the Transition Primer from Transition US. It was such a positive message that I decided to write about Transition tomorrow. Then there was a quote in the Primer that just had to be the one to close today’s post.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Ever noticed how quickly a dog returns to wagging its tail!
The immensity of the universe and what it means for Planet Earth.
Jean and I have been watching the astounding BBC Series Wonders of Life presented by Professor Brian Cox. Here’s the BBC trailer:
and there are more clips from the programmes on the relevant part of the BBC website. There is so much about the series that is breath-taking. So much that reminds one of what a beautiful and fragile planet we live on. Quite rightly, the series received great reviews. Here, for example, is a little of what the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper wrote:
Wonders of Life, BBC Two, review
Sarah Crompton reviews the first episode of Brian Cox’s latest series, Wonders of Life (BBC Two).
10:00PM GMT 27 Jan 2013
When it comes to presenting styles, Professor Brian Cox is hard to keep still. There isn’t a beach he won’t feel compelled to stroll on, a mountain he won’t climb, or a river he won’t jump into. And what does he carry in that bag?
Once you got beyond these irritating stylistic tropes, however, Wonders of Life (BBC Two) was Cox at his absolute best, using his natural enthusiasm to communicate complicated ideas in very simple ways. He decided, for example, to show us his own DNA by spitting in a test tube – and missed.
“A physicist doing an experiment,” he giggled, with unforced charm. But when he actually succeeded, those little strands of white that you suddenly see brought everything he subsequently said to life.
He was brilliant at explaining his thesis, which was actually about the second law of thermodynamics, so not that much of a doddle to grasp. If I’ve got it right, what Cox thinks is that life itself may have been the inevitable consequence of the laws of physics and can be explained in the same terms as we explain “the falling of the rain and the shining of the stars”.
Sarah rounds off her review, thus:
The programme’s sophisticated use of graphics, and Cox’s patient repetition of his conclusions, all added to the sensation that this is a series that is actually going to tell you something. For the BBC to unveil both this and The Story of Music over a single weekend reveals a pretty impressive commitment to public service broadcasting. Long may it last.
One of the clear messages that comes from the program is the fact that our universe and the formation of life are intimately connected. That the ‘big bang’ some 3.2 billion years ago, the huge interstellar gas clouds, the formation of the carbon atom and the subsequent long-chained molecules, the collapse of those gas clouds to form suns and planets, the start of life, evolution through natural selection to ever more complex life forms, and on and on and on were and are inevitable. The science is clear. There is nothing mystical about it.
Yes, of course, anyone with half-an-ounce of sensitivity will be in awe of it all; the power and beauty of nature and of the natural world.
But here’s the rub.
As another BBC television programme explained, the universe is bigger than beyond imagination. That was from the BBC Horizon broadcast of August, 2012: How Big is the Universe? Here’s the trailer for that programme.
Stay with me a little longer! Just look at the following image.
This image of the Andromeda galaxy, taken in infrared and X-ray, consists of over a trillion stars.
The detailed Spitzer Space Telescope view above features infrared light from dust (red) and old stars (blue) in Andromeda, a massive spiral galaxy a mere 2.5 million light-years away. In fact, with over twice the diameter of our own Milky Way, Andromeda is the largest nearby galaxy. Andromeda’s population of bright young stars define its sweeping spiral arms in visible light images, but here the infrared view clearly follows the lumpy dust lanes heated by the young stars as they wind even closer to the galaxy’s core. Constructed to explore Andromeda’s infrared brightness and stellar populations, the full mosaic image is composed of about 3,000 individual frames. Two smaller companion galaxies, NGC 205 (below) and M32 (above) are also included in the combined fields. The data confirm that Andromeda (aka M31) houses around 1 trillion stars, compared to 4 hundred billion for the Milky Way.
Please stay with me for a few more minutes. Keeping the Andromeda galaxy in mind, now read this:
March 29, 2013
Astronomers estimate that there are between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. A single galaxy such as the Milky Way contain upwards of 200 billion normal stars. About 75 percent of all stars in the Milky Way are less than half as massive as our Sun. In the universe at large, the majority of galaxies are classified as dwarfs, each with less than a few hundred million stars. The image above is a computer simulation of a colliding dwarf galaxy triggering the formation of the Milky Ways spiral arms.
The largest project ever undertaken to map out the Universe in three dimensions using ESO telescopes has reached the halfway stage. An international team of astronomers has used the VIMOS instrument on the ESO Very Large Telescope to measure the distances to 55,000 galaxies as part of the VIPERS survey (VIMOS Public Extragalactic Redshift Survey). This has already allowed them to create a remarkable three-dimensional view of how galaxies were distributed in space in the younger Universe.This reveals the complex web of the large-scale structure of the Universe in great detail. The light of each galaxy is spread out into its component colours within VIMOS. Follow up analysis then allows astronomers to work out how fast the galaxy appears to move away from us — its redshift. This in turn reveals its distance and, when combined with its position on the sky, its location in the Universe.
Millions of galaxies, trillions of suns, inconceivable numbers of planets.
Please pause and let the numbers sink in.
Now back to that Wonders of Life BBC series, during which Professor Brian Cox, said, “that it is inconceivable that there isn’t life elsewhere, that life is not present on countless other planets circling countless other suns …“.
In other words, if mankind is so intent on ‘fouling our nest’ on this most beautiful of planets, so what!
In the bigger scheme of things, it matters not. Find that tough? Then go and hug a dog and enjoy the moment. For tomorrow may never come.
Perhaps the last frontier, the one underneath our feet?
Can’t recall where I came across this BBC program but so what! The fact is that the BBC have had a long and well-deserved reputation for making some fabulous programmes on nature and wildlife. So it was with a recent programme from the BBC Nature stable. The one that caught my eye and the motivation for today’s LfD post was called The Burrowers: Animals Underground.
Here is the trailer.
Published on Aug 9, 2013 Discover with BBC Two the secret life of Rabbits, Badgers and Water Voles.
Offering us this:
The Burrowers: Animals Underground
Chris Packham continues his underground journey investigating the world of some of the UK’s most iconic burrowing animals. Filmmakers and scientists cannot investigate animal behaviour inside wild burrows without disturbing them so The Burrowers’ team found ingenious ways to film this secret world by recreating full-scale replicas. It’s now spring in the burrows and the new babies are having to grow up fast. The seven orphan badgers are learning to communicate with each other, young rabbits must take their first steps outside, and young water voles their first swim. Chris also meets the most elusive burrower of them all – an animal which almost never comes above ground – the mole. He reveals the moles’ survival techniques, its method of burrowing and the food it eats. Finally, the team unveils a science first: the excavation of a massive abandoned wild rabbit warren… Back in winter it was filled with concrete and left to set. Now a small army of volunteers and diggers have excavated it, revealing a three-dimensional model of a complex system of tunnels and chambers.
So despite it being at the other end of the scale compared to the cosmos, we still know so little about what goes on beneath our feet.
Mind you, that doesn’t stop some of us from trying to find out!
Jon Lavin reflects on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
Last week, I republished a number of Jon’s posts from way back and was delighted at how many of you enjoyed his writings. Jon and his family are taking a well-earned vacation which clearly includes reading posts on Learning from Dogs: Poor soul! This was made clear from an email Jon sent me yesterday afternoon.
Jon had read the essay from George Monbiot that was published three days ago under my post title of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) all over again? So hopefully, this introduction puts Jon’s email into proper context. The subject title of Jon’s email was DDT 2.0.
Hope you guys are well on your lovely farm! We’re in sunny Falmouth for the week staying in our Ben’s student flat slowly working our way through his food supplies.
In my current chilled state, I read your reproduced article and I got to thinking; so you might pick out the odd bit of coherence in these ramblings!
I am reminded of David Hawkins’ ‘Scale of Human Consciousness’. If 80 percent of us are below the level of Integrity, and therefore truth, and the average level of integrity in business is below this level, it is no wonder that money comes before the greater good. Think of the banking crisis as a good example.
I guess we move forward at the speed of the slowest. We certainly seem to learn through the pain and suffering of our own making. I can understand now why this world is perfect for our development and advancement. We are exposed to every opportunity to better ourselves and not everyone has enough of what it takes to hit the mark. We just have to keep going until we get it, even if this means pain and suffering.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism talk about suffering and how we create it.The First Noble Truth states that life is suffering. The 2nd Noble Truth talks about our craving for things: money, possessions, etc.; cravings that create suffering. The Third Noble Truth talks of a cure and a way out of hopelessness and suffering and finally, the Fourth Noble Truth gives guidance on walking the path out of suffering.
So, although your article is awful, it is to be expected that we keep being attracted to these sorts of schemes and are attracted to money. We have to learn through pain and suffering until we get it right.
People frequently ask, “What can I do to help?”. Unfortunately or fortunately, there is a way out! The best way to help is to work on ourselves! Sounds a bit silly but by working and developing ourselves we raise the overall level of human consciousness. This means that when companies and individuals attempt to do things that are not integrous, there is less likelihood of them being successful.
Heady stuff really and I wouldn’t describe myself as Buddhist but I have to admit there seems to be some truth in this.
I hope some of this makes sense.
Well, of course it makes sense; perfect sense! Reminds me of the old adage that one cannot truly help another without first helping oneself.
Thus what I read in Jon’s words is that by living a life of integrity we help bring up the overall level of human consciousness, right across our planet. Let me stay with that for a moment longer. Jon mentioned David Hawkins’ ‘Scale of Human Consciousness’. It was included in a post in January 2012 The evolution of the domestic dog but to save you going there, here it is again:
One might argue that the column headed ‘LEVEL’ is a pseudonym for ‘Behaviour’. In other words, those behaviours from Courage and up represent integrity.
So when Jon writes, “The best way to help is to work on ourselves!“, what he is saying that by consciously abandoning levels below 200 we open ourselves to being a force for good beyond ourselves. Just run your eye down the emotions from Ineffable to Affirmation and reflect on how others that offer those emotions affect us in such a positive and inspiring way. Indeed, no better than reflecting on how a dog makes us feel when offering unconditional love!
Of course it’s not easy! Nothing great ever is. There is so much around us that we can hate (score 150), so much to create anxiety (score 100), and so many examples of despair (score 50).
But remember the beginning of integrity is 200.
Which is why trust (score 250) and optimism (score 310) and forgiveness (score 350) and especially love (score 500) are truly the tools of healing our planet.
You can start right now by hugging a dog (dogs score 210!).
Thank you, Jon.
Always the need for healing.
My posts from Monday and yesterday about the plight of our bees must to many, frequently me as well, engender a level of hopelessness as to where we, as in the peoples of this planet, are heading. Too many times the news is discouraging; to say the least.
But hold on for just a moment! Here’s a quotation from this week’s Sabbath Moment from Terry Hershey:
Tears have a purpose.
they are what we carry of the ocean, and
perhaps we must become sea,
give ourselves to it,
if we are to be transformed.
What this says to me is that feelings of sadness, of grief, even of despair are an essential part of the process of ‘letting go’; of being able to heal oneself. Just as dogs and many other animals know when to crawl away and recuperate in some peaceful and quiet place, so too must we humans counter our feelings of pain and anguish with healing.
Friday Facts ~ Sound Healing
Have you ever wondered why we so enjoy Music? Why various styles seem to either lift our mood or sooth our spirits? Or some grate on our nerve endings?
Sound Healing comes in various forms. I have received healing from various sources: Crystal Singing Bowls, Tuning Forks and the Mighty Gongs. The Gong Bath in particular shifted something within my being as I physically felt something leave my aura to be replaced with a new found peace within.
Sound Healing isn’t new and if you research back to ancient times many ceremonies were done through sound.
I know in the 90s when I was going through my own major self-healing after listening to some tapes by Deepak Chopra called Magical Mind Magical Body in which he speaks about our vowel sounds. I remember driving to work, and on occasion still do, chanting out Very Loudly the vowel sounds in a chant, each vowel holds its own frequency. Chanting brings an awareness of our own voice, as we express outwards our feelings, and there are some interesting theories as how certain frequencies are powerfully connected to our body. This includes the frequency of 528hz,referred to as ancient solfeggio frequencies which has been researched for its proposed ability to heal and resonate with human DNA. I did my own research on the net, and came across this site and post ( Forgotten in Time: The Ancient Solfeggio Frequencies )
Interestingly too the author of that post went on to explain how Deepak Chopra was a big inspiration and listened to the same tapes I did where Deepak Chopra explained saying: “Quantum physics has found that there is no empty space in the human cell, but it is a teeming, electro-magnetic field of possibility or potential.” This made me smile as synchronicity seemed to be playing a role.
Within that same article the author went on to say how music makes waves which produces shapes and patterns and quoted a passage from a book by the first to make that connection, a German scientist, Ernst Chladni who in 1787 detailed his findings in his book “Discoveries Concerning the Theory of Music.” These patterns and figures are called Chladni figures with each note having a corresponding pattern or vibration.
My own tool is the Drum and if we look back through time we see how the Drum beat has been used not only in rituals but also within our military as we march to its beat! The Drum is very powerful and many join Drumming circles. You, too, can find out how to call Healing from within a Drumming Circle from an article in the magazine Sacred Hoop of 2003 called Healing Power of the Drum Circle
Sound Healing works, because we are all vibration, we all resonate with our own frequencies. For those wishing to learn more the links are below and of course there are many many articles covering this subject on the ‘web’.
For those who have not much time I will leave you with this one note of vibration from a Singing bowl. If you go to the YouTube site you will find more about this One note and how it heals.
… and for those who have 5 minutes to spare this Om Meditation.
I thought it would be helpful to include the YouTube notes that were associated with those two videos.
First: 7th Chakra – Reiki Angel Crystal Singing Bowl Sound Healing
Chakra’s are energy centers in your body. There are 7 major Chakra’s. Each Chakra governs specific issues and lessons.By aligning the chakra system you can heal your mental, emotional, spiritual & physical bodies.
7th Chakra= Crown Chakra
Location: top of head
Musical note/ sound: B/ silence
Glands/ Organs: Pineal gland, cerebral cortex, central nervous system, right eye
Essential Oils: Frankincense, Myrrh
Stones/ Crystals: amethyst, alexandrite,diamond, sugalite, purple fluorite, quartz, selenite
Purpose: vitalizes upper brain, unification with higher self. Being open to source, accepting our own Divinity, Beauty, healing, Inspiration. Perception beyond space & time, perceives “miracles”.
When Harmonious: Idealism, selfless service, One with divine, spiritual will, unity.
When Disrupted: lack of inspiration, confusion, depression, alienation, hesitation to serve, senility, crisis of faith.
Second: Aum Meditation
Working with Aums will resonate into all objects around you, effectively re-writing all undesirable environmental energy programming. Like a springboard of positivity. Use it to launch your spiritual work to new heights. This is just a small sample of the full meditation.
Last word for a while on the power of meditation.
This is not a single topic blog. But the last few days have brought such a wealth of marvellous stuff that I couldn’t resist this final, for the time being, post on the benefits of slowing down, of taking a break – meditation, in other words.
First, and I wish I could remember from whence it came, I found this essay by Bertrand Russell In Praise of Idleness It’s a wonderful piece of writing from one of the great masters of the art. Take this extract from just the first paragraph, (and the photo insertion is from me!):
I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. Everyone knows the story of the traveler in Naples who saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth. This traveler was on the right lines. But in countries which do not enjoy Mediterranean sunshine idleness is more difficult, and a great public propaganda will be required to inaugurate it. I hope that, after reading the following pages, the leaders of the YMCA will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.
Then from out of the Transition Network stables came this interview by Rob Hopkins with Sophy Banks on the Power of Not Doing Stuff. Just going to pick out a couple of exchanges that really struck me.
Sophy, I’m sure you get asked the question lots of times, but how would you describe Inner Transition ? What’s Inner Transition for you?
I gave a talk about Inner Transition in Canada just recently, and someone said “what I want from the talk is, what’s the most succinct story? What’s the E=mc² of Inner Transition?” The way that I’m talking about that at the moment is to say the absolute core of Inner Transition is that in our groups, within ourselves, in our relationships, in what we’re doing in our communities, how can we be creating a culture that supports us to be in a state of feeling resourced, feeling empowered, feeling seen and appreciated? With the understanding that when we have those kind of external conditions, we find ourselves in a state where we’re the most open to new ideas, the most open to connection, the most able to build relationships with people who are different from us.
That’s the core of it, to understand that internally we can be in different inner states, we can be in a state where we feel stressed and closed and driven or whatever, or we can be in a state where we’re open and creative and learning and available. That’s one way of framing Inner Transition, how do we keep recreating that?
Part of it, I think, is when we’re all in that state of being open and creative and connected with each other and with ourselves, we make the best decisions. We’re able to take the longest and the widest view, we’re able to see the consequences of what we do, so there’s also something which has really been resonating for me. That’s not only the process we need for Transition, that’s the end-state we want to get to. Part of what’s not working in our culture is that lots of the people with a lot of power who are making really key decisions are in a state of constant stress and pressure and having to make very narrow decisions, decisions based on very narrow viewpoints.
One of the expressions you’ve been using increasingly over the last couple of years is “healthy human culture” and this idea that that’s ultimately the aim of Transition, to enable that and to create that. What does that mean? Can you define “healthy human culture”?
This is where my enquiry took me. I got really interested in seeing polarities and dualities – people have been doing that for centuries – about our culture and calling it dualistic. I came across Riane Eisler’s work. She talks about basically two kinds of human culture. One is based on partnership and one is based on domination. I got really interested in that and the question what if that’s true? It’s a big proposition.
If that’s true, what’s underneath that and what is it about what goes on inside us that we’re constructed, the way we’ve evolved, that causes that to be so, that there are these two stable states? I feel like I’ve been looking at lots of different territories, I’m really interested in trauma and how that affects us in the creation of the unconscious that comes through trauma.
This whole thing about how we create unintended consequences. The idea that anybody could have sat down and designed the consequences that we’re living with is inconceivable. However dysfunctional people were and however much they’re interested in wealth or power or anything, I just don’t believe that anybody intended it to be like this. How do we get this as a by-product of something that’s natural and…just who we are, who we’ve evolved to be.
So for me, the question around “healthy human culture” is one of the inner. What’s the inner state of a culture that creates partnership, learns to live within its resources, that’s oriented towards joyful, pleasurable existence, that has a belief about ourselves as humans that we’re trustworthy and generous and want good things for the future, good things for our children. What I see very very strongly: in a lot of the depth work that I’ve done, what I see is when you peel away a lot of the damage, what you find is a profound and I could say universal. In my experience (I haven’t worked with the psychopaths and the most damaged people) but that sense that if we’re healed and whole what we want is to love each other and do good in the world.
Then there’s another state we could be in, which comes back to your first question, where we feel under-resourced, disempowered, under attack. There’s not enough and I’m taught that other people are selfish, violent and greedy so I need to fight for what I can get. In order to have status I’ve got to have stuff, I’ve got to prove myself. With that goes a whole lot of very difficult feelings.
I’m very interested in that idea, that in unhealthy culture we have a whole lot of unmanageable feelings centred around shame and not being good enough that we then disown – I can’t deal with that in myself, I’ll put it on to you, I’ll find somebody else to have that experience and then I’ll watch it in them and feel OK about myself. It’s really interesting to look at cultures of domination and colonialism and capitalism and power-over as being driven by the need to not feel stuff myself, but grab enough power so that I can do it to somebody else.
The whole driver for those things is a psychological state of splitting and projection. When I bring that back to me and what culture I create in my relationships and my groups, you see it out in those big systems in the world but it’s also a very precise way of understanding and discerning what culture do I make in this room with these people, around splitting and projection or unity.
That’s quite a big answer! The short answer is “healthy human culture” is that one where we reel resourced, empowered, connected, appreciated and safe. Those seem to be the 5 things. If we have those, we are in that state of openness and availability and connection and learning and receptivity and then taking good action instead of action that creates a problem somewhere else in the system.
It really is a fascinating and thought-provoking interview. Go and read it in full, or better still, find somewhere to sit and relax, close your eyes and listen to it.
There was an article in Nature about the Brain: Neuroscience: Idle minds - Neuroscientists are trying to work out why the brain does so much when it seems to be doing nothing at all.
For volunteers, a brain-scanning experiment can be pretty demanding. Researchers generally ask participants to do something — solve mathematics problems, search a scene for faces or think about their favoured political leaders — while their brains are being imaged.
But over the past few years, some researchers have been adding a bit of down time to their study protocols. While subjects are still lying in the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners, the researchers ask them to try to empty their minds. The aim is to find out what happens when the brain simply idles. And the answer is: quite a lot.
Again, a very important read so do go across and read it in full. Because, you will come to this:
Zen and the art of network maintenance
Raichle favours the idea that activity in the resting state helps the brain to stay organized. The connections between neurons are continually shifting as people age and learn, but humans maintain a sense of self throughout the upheaval. Spontaneous activity might play a part in maintaining that continuity. “Connections between neurons turn over in minutes, hours, days and weeks,” says Raichle. “The structure of the brain will be different tomorrow but we will still remember who we are.”
Or perhaps the activity is part of the reshaping process, tweaking connections while we idle. Several teams have reported changes in resting connectivity after language and memory tasks and motor learning. Chris Miall, a behavioural brain scientist at the University of Birmingham, UK, and his colleagues have shown that spontaneous activity at rest can be perturbed by what has just happened. The team scanned volunteers at rest, and then asked them to learn a task involving using a joystick to track a moving target. When the participants were scanned at rest again, the team could see the effects of motor learning in the resting networks. That study, and subsequent work along the same lines, suggests that “the brain is not only thinking about supper coming up, but it’s also processing the recent past and converting some of that into long-term memories”, says Miall. The network changes are specific to the tasks performed.
So, hopefully, anyone who has read this post and who would like to slow down, to practise the art of doing nothing, will be eager to learn how. Well, keep reading!
How to Do It Daily
There are lots and lots of ways to meditate. But our concern is not to find a perfect form of meditation — it’s to form the daily habit of meditation. And so our method will be as simple as possible.
1. Commit to just 2 minutes a day. Start simply if you want the habit to stick. You can do it for 5 minutes if you feel good about it, but all you’re committing to is 2 minutes each day.
2. Pick a time and trigger. Not an exact time of day, but a general time, like morning when you wake up, or during your lunch hour. The trigger should be something you already do regularly, like drink your first cup of coffee, brush your teeth, have lunch, or arrive home from work.
3. Find a quiet spot. Sometimes early morning is best, before others in your house might be awake and making lots of noise. Others might find a spot in a park or on the beach or some other soothing setting. It really doesn’t matter where — as long as you can sit without being bothered for a few minutes. A few people walking by your park bench is fine.
4. Sit comfortably. Don’t fuss too much about how you sit, what you wear, what you sit on, etc. I personally like to sit on a pillow on the floor, with my back leaning against a wall, because I’m very inflexible. Others who can sit cross-legged comfortably might do that instead. Still others can sit on a chair or couch if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable. Zen practitioners often use a zafu, a round cushion filled with kapok or buckwheat. Don’t go out and buy one if you don’t already have one. Any cushion or pillow will do, and some people can sit on a bare floor comfortably.
5. Start with just 2 minutes. This is really important. Most people will think they can meditate for 15-30 minutes, and they can. But this is not a test of how strong you are at staying in meditation — we are trying to form a longer-lasting habit. And to do that, we want to start with just a two minutes. You’ll find it much easier to start this way, and forming a habit with a small start like this is a method much more likely to succeed. You can expand to 5-7 minutes if you can do it for 7 straight days, then 10 minutes if you can do it for 14 straight days, then 15 minutes if you can stick to it for 21 straight days, and 20 if you can do a full month.
6. Focus on your breath. As you breathe in, follow your breath in through your nostrils, then into your throat, then into your lungs and belly. Sit straight, keep your eyes open but looking at the ground and with a soft focus. If you want to close your eyes, that’s fine. As you breathe out, follow your breath out back into the world. If it helps, count … one breath in, two breath out, three breath in, four breath out … when you get to 10, start over. If you lose track, start over. If you find your mind wandering (and you will), just pay attention to your mind wandering, then bring it gently back to your breath. Repeat this process for the few minutes you meditate. You won’t be very good at it at first, most likely, but you’ll get better with practice.
And that’s it. It’s a very simple practice, but you want to do it for 2 minutes, every day, after the same trigger each day. Do this for a month and you’ll have a daily meditation habit.
Now to the close.
Beautifully rendered thanks to Terry Hershey. For on his website there is this:
When I pause, I put myself in a new or different environment.
When I pause, I create spaces–or sanctuaries–in which renewal can be born.
When I pause, I allow my soul to savor, relish, value, honor, welcome, see, celebrate, wonder, and to experience grace.